Heli J. Roy | 2/27/2006 10:47:32 PM
We’ve heard it many times that a healthy diet should include plenty fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have many vitamins, such as vitamin C that neutralizes harmful chemicals in the body, and many minerals we need for our bodies to function properly. Fruits and vegetables also have other chemicals that act as strong antioxidants in the body and remove harmful chemicals before they cause damage that lead to diseases. Dietary Guidelines for Americans set by the USDA suggest increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Also, they suggested increased variety to ward off chronic diseases.
In observance of January as Pear Month, LSU AgCenter food and nutrition expert Dr. Heli Roy recommends eating pears, because they are a good source of dietary fiber , vitamin C and phytochemicals.Pears have no cholesterol, saturated fat or sodium. For a healthy snack, Roy says simply wash the fruit and slice it up or just bite in. Pears taste best at room temperature.
If you seldom or never have eaten a pear, this would be a good time to give one a try, Roy adds.
Pears come in several varieties. Some are better raw, and others are better cooked. Four popular varieties are Bartlett, Anjou, Bosc and Comice. Each has a different color and shape, with a subtle difference in flavor and texture.
Anjou pears are the most abundant in the winter and the least expensive of all varieties. They have a smooth yellow-green skin and creamy flesh that tastes blander than the other varieties.
Bartlett pears, the leading summer pears, are mostly used for canning, and they are also the only pears sold dried.
The Bosc variety is best for baking and poaching, since it holds its shape well when cooked. Comice, on the other hand, is the perfect ingredient for a gift box or a fruit basket. This variety is very sweet and flavorful.
The peak season for pears is August through October, but one variety or another is available year round. Pears are not picked when ripe. Therefore, you need to let them ripen at home. Roy offers two options to attain the best flavor.
One, refrigerate the pears until you are ready to ripen them (take them out of the refrigerator several days before you want to serve them and let them ripen at room temperature).
Or, two, ripen the pears at room temperature, and then refrigerate them for no longer than a day or two before eating them.
Other serving suggestions include baking (stuffed pears), sautéing (for a sweet and spicy side dish) or served raw (peeled, halved and cored) with cheese. Roy recommends Brie or Camembert. Cooked pears are enhanced by warm spices, like nutmeg, cloves or allspice.